For those of you who have followed our Tours With Tom and many of our property pictures, or may yet do so, and seen that in many of our photos one or two Standard Poodles are inspecting the properties, we wish to add this important post script.
Our beloved Ben, or Benny, as we called him, our male Standard Poodle, passed away very suddenly on the afternoon of 23 January (2007), of a medical condition we never truly understood. And that was after too many Vets and too few informed opinions.
The death of our beloved friend, Ben, leaves a tangible hole in our family, and like blood rushing from a grievous wound, our anguish over his loss simply can't be expressed or staunched easily. But we also know that having been blessed with a companion and family member of such remarkable qualities, our lives have been - and will remain - the richer, and our perception of true love - everlasting. We miss him terribly and will always be grateful for those few years he was with us.
If we had to come up with a one word description of Ben, there is no question what it would be: Benevolent.
The dictionary definition reads as follows:
“Having or showing or arising from a desire to promote the welfare or happiness of others”
...So perfect a characterization that it is the elongated version of his name.
He managed at once to be companion, confident, understanding friend, and lively conversationalist. He liked Mozart and Handel, and thoroughly distrusted Wagner, and would leave the room if Rap somehow momentarily came on the radio. He would discover any injury we had even when it was not apparent on the surface, and do his best to help relieve it. He gave us unreserved support when things were rough, and was faithfully calm and delighted when things were going well. He appreciated life - and celebrated happiness with an open and inclusive manner that neither Val nor I had ever before experienced. He was our dear, dear Ben.
Eugene O'Neill's tribute to his pet, adapted to our beautiful boy and his sentiments, takes over for us here - elequently - when words fail...
Last Will and Testament
by Eugene O'Neill
I, Big Ben Childs, Second Lord of Gun Hill, (familiarly known to my family,
friends and acquaintances as Benny), because the
burden of my years is heavy upon me, and I realize the end of my
life is near, do hereby bury my last will and
testament in the mind of my Masters. They will not know it is there
until I am dead. Then, remembering me in their
loneliness, they will suddenly know of this testament, and I ask
them then to inscribe it as a memorial to me.
I have little in the way of material things to leave. Dogs are
wiser than men. They do not set great store upon
things. They do not waste their time hoarding property. They do
not ruin their sleep worrying about objects they
have, and to obtain the objects they have not. There is nothing
of value I have to bequeath except my love and
my faith. These I leave to those who have loved me, to my Master
and Mistress and friend Bibi, who I know will mourn me most,
to Mac and Alveta who found me my home and family,
to John and Christena and - but if I should list all those who have loved me it would force my Masters to write a book.
Perhaps it is in vain of me to boast when I am so
near death, which returns all beasts and vanities to dust, but I
have always been an extremely lovable dog.
I ask my Master and Mistress to remember me always, but not to
grieve for me too long. In my life I have tried to
be a comfort to them in time of sorrow, and a reason for added
joy in their happiness. It is painful for me to think
that even in death I should cause them pain. Let them remember
that while no dog has ever had a happier life (and
this I owe to their love and care for me), now that I have grown
blind and deaf and lame, and even my sense of
smell fails me so that a red squirrel could be right under my nose and
I might not know, my pride has sunk to a sick,
bewildered humiliation. I feel life is taunting me with having
over lingered my welcome. It is time I said good-by,
before I become too sick a burden on myself and on those who love
It will be sorrow to leave them, but not a
sorrow to die. Dogs do not fear death as men do. We accept it as
part of life, not as something alien and terrible
which destroys life. What may come after death, who knows? I
would like to believe with those of my fellow
Poodles, that there is a Paradise
where one is always young and full-bladdered;
beautifully groomed, top-knot erect (I am a French Poodle after all);
where red squirrels that run fast but not too fast
are as the sands of the desert; where each blissful
hour is mealtime; where beaches are always nearby;
where small, flat catchable rocks skimming the ocean surface are thrown for me by an arm that never tires; where in long evenings there are a million
fireplaces with logs forever burning and one curls
oneself up and blinks into the flames and nods and dreams,
remembering the old brave days on earth, and the
love of one's Master and Mistress.
I am afraid this is too much for even such a dog as I am to
expect. But peace, at least, is certain. Peace and long
rest for weary old heart and head and limbs, and eternal sleeps
in the earth I have loved so well. Perhaps, after all,
this is best.
One last request I earnestly make. I have heard my Mistress say,
'When Benny dies we must never have another
dog. I love him so much I could never love another one.' Now I
would ask her, for love of me, to have another. It
would be a poor tribute to my memory never to have a dog again.
What I would like to feel is that, having once
had me in the family, now she cannot live without a dog! I have
never had a narrow jealous spirit. I have always
held that most dogs are good (and one cat, the black one I have
permitted to share the living-room rug during the
evenings, whose affection I have tolerated in a kindly spirit,
and in rare sentimental moods, even reciprocated a
trifle). Some dogs, of course, are better than others.
Poodles, naturally, as everyone knows, are best.
So I suggest a Poodle as my successor. He can hardly be as
well bred, or as well mannered or as distinguished
and handsome as I was in my prime. My Master and Mistress must
not ask the impossible. But he will do his
best, I am sure, and even his inevitable defects will help by
comparison to keep my memory green. To him I
bequeath my collar and leash and my overcoat and raincoat, made
to order in 1996 at Hermes in Paris. He can
never wear them with the distinction I did, walking around the
Place Vendome, or later along Park Avenue, all
eyes fixed on me in admiration; but again I am sure he will do
his utmost not to appear a mere gauche provincial
dog. Here in the country, he may prove himself quite worthy of
comparison, in some respects. He will, I presume,
come closer to red squirrels than I have been able to in recent
years. And, for all his faults, I hereby wish him the
happiness I know will be his in my old home.
One last word of farewell, Dear Master and Mistress. Whenever you
visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret
but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my
long happy life with you: 'here lies one who
loved us and whom we loved.' No matter how deep my sleep I shall
hear you, and not all the power of death can
keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.
Benny and his buddy Bibi
(click to enlarge)
Certified Pedigree Details: Big Ben Second Lord of Gun Hill PP484507/06